U.S. Air Force F-35As in the Pacific are the newest versions of the Lockheed Martin [LMT] fighter and are not having the sustainment problems found in older versions of the fighter, Air Force Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, the commander of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), said during a press availability on March 3 at the Air Force Association warfare symposium in Orlando, Fla.

“Obviously, the F-35 continues to improve,” Wilsbach said when asked what sustainment and other improvements he’d like to see for PACAF F-35As. “We’re very blessed in PACAF because our sustainment of our F-35s is really, really good. We have very high maintenance readiness rates for our F-35s. We’re standing up two squadrons at Eielson AFB, Alaska. Currently, we have 12 jets deployed out to Kadena Air Base, Japan. They were two weeks in [the] Guam cluster…and then at the end of that they moved over to Kadena, and they continue to do ACE (Agile Combat Employment) iterations. They’re doing awesome from the standpoint of maintenance reliability on the road which is sometimes even more difficult than at home.”

“We’re not seeing those [F-35 sustainment issues] in PACAF,” he said. “Our F-35s are the newest ones coming off the line.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown approved the ACE doctrine last December. The doctrine aims to ensure that the Air Force can deploy rapidly from a number of locations, given that potential adversaries may threaten fixed Air Force bases with small-unmanned aircraft and cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missiles.

Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that the Pentagon needs to improve the operation of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) for the F-35 to allow the fighter to deploy readily and operate in the Pacific region (Defense Daily, Feb. 16).

“DoD needs to take steps to assess and mitigate risks associated with key supply chain-related challenges, including the F-35’s central logistics system, and to determine the F-35’s ability to effectively support operations in the Pacific,” per a Feb. 15 GAO National Security Snapshot: Challenges Facing DoD in Strategic Competition with China.

While DoD has implemented a number of GAO recommendations to improve U.S. military readiness in the Pacific, “as of February 2022, GAO has identified additional actions that may better position DoD to address the challenges with China that DoD has not yet implemented.” Among those actions identified as needed by GAO two years ago are developing a process to measure how ALIS issues affect the F-35’s mission capable rates, which have been below 60 percent, and enacting a strategy for the re-design of ALIS.

In 2020, GAO reported that ALIS problems included inaccurate or missing data, challenges deploying, and poor user experience.

Between last July and January 2022, the F-35 program and Lockheed Martin fielded the first 14 sets of new, unclassified logistics information hardware, the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN) base kit (OBK), for F-35 operational squadrons, the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) said recently (Defense Daily, Jan. 31).

The installations replaced the more than two decade-old ALIS Standard Operating Unit-Unclassified (SOU-U) server. The OBKs at the 12 locations complete “the initial phase of ODIN hardware rollout, replacing all first-generation unclassified ALIS servers in the field,” the JPO said.

The F-35 program’s use of the cloud-based ODIN may save funds, as the program looks to reduce sustainment and cost-per-flying hour costs (Defense Daily, Oct. 6, 2021).

“GAO currently has ongoing work on the status of the ALIS to ODIN transition where we’ll be providing updated information on the status this spring,” Cathleen Berrick, the managing director of GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, wrote in a Feb. 16 email. “In November 2021, DoD did put together a strategy for how it wants to transition from ALIS-to-ODIN and there has been some progress. This strategy is the first step in what will be an implementation that will have many complexities, and likely won’t be easy.”

Berrick wrote that the Pentagon’s November 2021 strategy addressed the intent of the GAO’s March 2020 recommendations on ALIS, but “there is still considerable work to be done do to fully implement this strategy across the F-35 enterprise.”

While ALIS has 891 pounds of hardware, ODIN is to have just 50 pounds of hardware, and the JPO said that the procurement cost for the new OBK hardware was 30 percent lower than for ALIS. The JPO said that OBK is designed to run ALIS software and future ODIN software applications.

Unlike ALIS, the intellectual property and data components of ODIN are to be government-owned, not contractor-owned.